Head office of one of the Top Three automotive makers decided that ‘recipe’ data for car assembly should be sent to the shop floor using a new, standardized methodology. The catch: the new controls system would need to communicate seamlessly with legacy equipment, including SLC 500 and Micrologix-controlled machinery too expensive to replace, not to mention requiring downtime the car maker couldn’t afford.
ARCX Corp to the Rescue
ARCX, an electrical engineering services company with experience in the automotive market, put together a bid for this project – and hit a limitation. While ARCX had a suitable Linux-based hardware platform to connect to the new controls system, they lacked the DF/1 link layer protocol technology needed to interface to the legacy Allen-Bradley PLCs.
When ARCX investigated writing their own DF/1 protocol driver, they estimated the effort and learning curve would be about six months of man-hours. That kind of timeline would lose ARCX a project valued at a quarter million dollars.
That was, obviously, not alright with Feisel Hurzook, ARCX’s president. He picked up the phone and called John Rinaldi, president of Real Time Automation (RTA), whose expertise in industrial networking he trusts.
“We’ve had great success working with the RTA team in the past with gateways and stacks. Again, not surprisingly, RTA had exactly what we needed for this automotive project.” said Hurzook.
“The software stack…amounted to a quarter million dollars worth of sales we would not have gotten otherwise”
The DF/1 source code solution from RTA was ported into ARCX’s multi-threaded Linux environment in under a week. “Three calls and eight emails later, we had the code working and could do regression testing,” says Hurzook.
The ARCX team worked directly with RTA’s Jamin Wendorf, who wrote the DF/1 product. “When you buy our software, you get support from the very engineer who wrote every line of the code,” says Rinaldi. “I don’t know anyone else in our industry who can say that.”
Technology expertise and highly responsive customer support gave RTA the assist in ARCX’s win of the Top Three auto maker’s project. The new controls system communicates seamlessly with a half-dozen PLC configurations at the car assembly plant.
“While the software stack was a small part of the final system, the RTA piece actually amounted to a quarter million dollars worth of sales we would not have gotten otherwise.” says Hurzook.
A little help from one’s automation friends goes a long way.